Jose Pimentel wasn’t exactly hiding.
The 27-year-old accused of plotting to attack New York with pipe bombs was operating a website that espoused his beliefs in committing terror against the U.S. and was relatively well known in law enforcement circles.
Federal authorities passed on the case — with one source telling TPM on Sunday night that the FBI passed several times, and an official telling the Associated Press on Monday that Pimentel “didn’t have the predisposition or the ability to do anything on his own.” That’s leaving observers wondering what exactly the feds didn’t like about the case and setting up another squabble in the long-running turf war between the New York Police Department and the FBI.
The Associated Press also reported that the FBI passed on the case — involving a bomb plot against New York City post offices and police stations. They believe Pimentel lacked the capability — financial and otherwise — to pull off a plot and wouldn’t have done it had it not been for the NYPD Intelligence Division’s cooperating source.
One law enforcement official told TPM that one of the FBI’s concerns centered upon the reliability of the cooperating informant in the case. The FBI was also worried about entrapment issues, an issue which has already been mentioned by a lawyer for the defendant.
Another federal law enforcement source told TPM that state officials were indeed coordinating with their federal counterparts on the Pimentel case for what they described as a lengthy period of time. The source wouldn’t discuss precisely what problems federal prosecutors and FBI agents found with the terror sting, but noted that state authorities (unlike the feds) had the ability to bring a conspiracy charge even when the only other player in the conspiracy is on the government’s payroll.
An official briefed on the case insisted that locals were working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s office and that the two entities have a very strong relationship.
Journalists and supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement have speculated that Bloomberg announced the case on Sunday night to distract from the controversy over the city’s handling of protestors in Zuccotti Park last week. A source familiar with the case said that isn’t the case and that the timing was completely based on the defendant’s actions. The source said that authorities didn’t announce the arrest until Sunday night (Pimentel was arrested Saturday afternoon) because they wanted to spend time interviewing him first.
At Sunday night’s press conference, New York City officials said they kept the feds informed about the case but didn’t really address why they weren’t involved. The District Attorney contended that they had to move ahead with the arrest because Pimentel’s bomb was nearly operational. Watch: